Who knew that using streaming services like Netflix or Amazon Prime for leadership coaching could lead to a 22% increase in overall engagement scores?
Streaming services provide us with a wealth of content to develop people and teams. It’s the type of unconventional resource that enables one to gain a keen awareness of people and team dynamics, along with a nuanced understanding of leaders and strategies under pressure. If you use the right streaming series, with the right tools and facilitation, you can do in weeks what takes traditional development years to accomplish.
For the past six months, I’ve met virtually with different teams to help improve their performance as well as to better align with their business unit’s strategy. Each week for a span of ten to twelve weeks, we dissected episodes with the goal of uncovering lessons pertinent to them personally and in their roles professionally. And they loved the learning experience.
The advantages of this approach should be obvious. Whether it’s a good thing or a bad one, television tends to be much more appealing than books. I find this is true for Generations Y and Z, and even X. The trick is to find quality material. Some stories are written so well that they are both exciting and engrossing, compelling people to continue watching. No matter the circumstances, be it a story set in World War I or in a modern courtroom, well-written characters and events can still offer lessons that are applicable to us in our modern setting.
The process of dissecting shows itself is advantageous. You are exercising the critical skill of identifying common denominators of substance among a multitude of different things. It’s this critical ability that enables leaders to better mitigate the effects of friction and stay focused on what matters, especially when uncertainty surfaces and begins to distract us.
So what are the benefits of using streaming services?
Besides observing the increases in overall engagement scores, one team of emerging leaders, supervisors and their manager also witnessed a 15% increase in inclusion, an 18% increase in teamwork and a 40% increase in innovation. Most interestingly, we saw an increase in maturity levels. Some employees were seeing their mindsets and behaviors play out on the big screen; as a result, they also saw the consequences of choices they preferred along with the potential ramifications in the realms of perception and reputation. “Oh man,” a coachee regularly says, “I never realized that is how I came across.”
How does it work?
There are four major elements that must be adhered to in order to make streaming service programs an effective resource for tailored coaching.
First, the groups must be small and diverse. For a higher return on investment (ROI) of your coaching time, groups should be two to four people. This way, everyone in the group has time to discuss in depth their perceptions and provide their unique takeaways.
It is also incredibly important that the group be behaviorally diverse. You see, there are certain behavioral profiles that are task- and mission-oriented, while others are people- and team-oriented. The best interactions and discussions occur when different perspectives are experienced. For instance, there have been many times when those with mission-oriented behaviors assess episodes that leave those with people-oriented behaviors perplexed. “How can you say he was an effective leader?” a dismayed participant will ask. “That character was incredibly toxic!” It’s this type of interaction that enhances the perspectives of team members about different people and mindsets.
Second, your show or series must have a specialized focus. I personally prefer shows and series over movies because of the time and depth needed to effectively develop characters and situations. Also, I purposefully avoid shows that tout “leadership,” for the simple reason that some are plainly cheesy and are designed for a specific interpretation — often, an ethical one. (My favorite movie is Patton, but I would never use it because it is more about character than leadership.)
Because leadership is such a complex and nuanced discipline, I recommend you break down your definition of leadership into its core components. In my case, I assign different series based on different leadership competencies, such as decision-making, communication, management, influence and culture. My flagship series for coaching is The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story on Netflix. If you pay attention, three major competencies stick out the most: behaviors, team dynamics and strategy. All discussions then gravitate around those three areas only.
The third element is deploying foundational content and tools. You can’t expect people to effectively learn without some standard or reference to guide them. Introductory content, based on the specific core competencies you want to focus on, is a non-negotiable prerequisite. For instance, participants I’ve worked with are provided with hours’ worth of online videos prior to each series. This foundational material assists them in gaining awareness of what exactly is being studied so that they can objectively assess people and situations while measuring progress of teams driving their strategies.
Custom tools to effectively evaluate each episode are necessary. For example, every series requires specific questionnaires based on each episode. You will need also additional tools, which include, but are not limited to, checklists to gauge leadership effectiveness and decision-making matrixes. Without this third element, the ROI of the experience will be lost despite enthusiasm and engagement.
The final, and probably most important, element of this process is the focus on drawing parallels between the core competencies and the participants’ own experiences in their roles. The goal is to help them grasp the learning through “ahas” so they better digest the material and later make use of it. This type of learning requires special facilitation. You must help others clearly make the connections between behaviors and decision-making, between team dynamics and strategy development and between tactical and strategic impacts on the organization.